EDITORIAL: The dangers of social media

Fact-checking, accountability and attribution not generally part of the noise on social media sites

The irresponsibility and lack of accountability of social media and the increase in coverage by legitimate sources in the 24-7 news world are changing the way people view trends and could adversely affect public policy.

According to Statistics Canada, the police-reported crime rate in Canada was at its lowest point in 2013 since 1969. The homicide and attempted murder rates are also at their lowest levels since the 1960s.

Those who live on their phones, scan Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media hourly, would likely be surprised by those facts. And they are also likely to ignore them. You see, some celebrity has been arrested and that’s what constitutes news for too many people these days.

A less serious case in point locally: we noticed reports of increases in cougar and bear sightings in Parksville Qualicum Beach on local social media pages. When we checked it out with people in the know, trained professionals who deal with these matters, we learned the number of such sightings is actually down in our region (see reporter Auren Ruvinsky’s story in the August 4 paper or at www.pqbnews.com).

We don’t profess to be the be-all, end-all of news sources. And we like a titillating tale as much as the next reader. But we do our best to check facts, provide attribution and present both or all sides to a story, whether it’s in the initial report or a follow-up.

In other words, we take our job seriously. And it’s our job, which is different than what’s being done by someone who is posting from their mother’s basement.

Media reports can and do lead to changes in government policy. Much like newspapers these days, municipal governments are pretty lean operations. They can’t be everywhere and can’t be expected to be experts, or have the time to research, every issue.

Politicians have always been reactionary, and to a degree that’s a good thing. But what are they reacting to and what are they getting taxpayer-funded staff to investigate? A hue and cry over something that’s not even close to being accurate? Someone on Facebook might demand action and public money because he/she believes a certain intersection is way too dangerous, when in fact there are a dozen other intersections that have statistics to show they should get tax-dollar attention first.

There’s just not enough ‘consider the source’ going on when it comes to social media these days, and it could prove costly.

— Editorial by John Harding

Just Posted

Parksville Qualicum Beach legions set to launch Poppy Campaign

Annual fundraiser to run from Oct. 25 to Nov. 11

Bear sightings up significantly in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Fruit trees number one food attractant, says conservation officer

Parksville Qualicum Beach crime report: Thieves pilfer laptops, tools, big-screen TV, cash and more

Oceanside RCMP received 256 complaints between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5.

Qualicum Bay writer Linda Tenney dies after battle with cancer

Celebration of life set for Nov. 2 at Lighthouse Community Centre

Pole-climbing thieves pilfering wire in Parksville Qualicum Beach area

Repairs are costly and thefts jeopardize public safety

Second young woman dies after rollover crash near Williams Lake

‘Someone’s going to get her heart, which is awesome, because she has the best heart in the world’

Google searches for ‘how to vote’ surge on Election Day

Interest spikes despite social media campaign by Elections Canada

Union says Western Forest Products refuses to budge from ‘unreasonable concessions’

According to a press release, both parties met on Oct. 16, 18, 19, and 20.

Alberta man pleads guilty, fined for hunting without a licence in North Island

It’s the responsibility of each hunter or angler to know whether they are considered a B.C. Resident.

B.C. mayor apologizes for removal of Queen’s portrait from council chambers

‘I prefer to be inclusive of the many aspects of our history’

Environment Canada issues gale warnings for western Vancouver Island

Gale warnings in effect for most of Vancouver Island and west coast Mainland

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

B.C. woman must pay $1,000 after unleashed dog bites another

Owner should never have left Bibi unattended, tribunal member wrote

Most Read